She Runs and Writes: Preparing for Race Day

By: Dawn Garland

Fellow runners!  What's the word?  Well, here we are.  The week leading up to my 15K.  I have to admit, at times I feel like this.  Then, there are times I feel a little like this.  Mostly though, I kind of enjoy feeling this way.

So how about we go over some basic do's and don't's for the week heading up to your race?  Feel free to modify, of course, for whatever benefits you the most!

DO- Taper your running.  What's tapering?  That means you give yourself the gift of not running as many miles as you have been.  Why do this?  Fresher legs on race day, of course. Here's a handy tapering guide from the super smarties at Runner's World. 

DON'T- Alter your life drastically in any way.  No, you don't need to go on a juice fast or extreme carbo load (we'll address that later).  You don't need to get 16 hours of sleep a night.  Try to stick to your usual routine.  If you can squeeze in a little extra sleep, maybe consider doing that.  The last thing you need to do is throw your system all out of whack.

DO- Stretch and/or roll your legs every night.  Also consider some yoga for runners if you have the time. Not just the days you run, either.  Every night.  Let's be honest, you should be doing this anyway.  But even I'll fess up to not always taking care of myself.  Studies have proven time and time again that limber muscles will only benefit all of us in the end.  So do yourself and your legs a favor and get your stretch on.  

DON'T- Buy everything all new for the race.  The last thing you want is blisters, chafing, clothing riding up in uncomfortable places at mile 1 of a marathon, etc.  Trust me- I want to look as super cute as anyone else in my gear.  But I only wear clothing and shoes (including socks!) that I have run in before.  If you absolutely HAVE to have a new outfit, make sure to wash it well first and at least take it on one test run ahead of time.

DO- Hydrate.  Did I mention hydrate?  Because HYDRATE.  This means NON-caffeinated beverages.  Quit whining.

DON'T- Eat a ridiculous amount of carbs the night before.  I know everyone talks about "carbo loading" before a race.  Most people then take that to mean that they should eat an entire pizza the night before because "I've got a real important 5K tomorrow, y'all!!"  Your carb intake should actually take place several days before the race.  And the length of your race will also determine how many grams you should aim for.  Check this out for some tips.

DO- Have a solid plan in place for race day.  Make sure you've read all the emails you've received as they may have very important information about parking, transit services, closed streets in the area, race number pickup times and locations, etc.  I'd hate for you to show up to the race only to find out there's no race day number pickup.  Know how long it's going to take you to get to the venue and add in plenty of extra time for stretching, bathroom breaks, getting to the starting line, etc.

DON'T- Eat something totally wacky the morning of the race.  If you're one of those people who can eat a full English breakfast and then go run a marathon, more power to you.  I am not.  I have figured out that a high protein bar about an hour before the race and a pre-workout type drink about a half hour before the race is just enough for me. See what your body is comfortable with and stick to that. No one wants to have to sprint off the course for a porta-potty mid race.

DO- Remember that this is the thing that you've been training for!  The fact that you are standing at the start line says that you've already accomplished something!  As a good friend of mine reminded me before my first half marathon, "All the training was the work.  The actual race is the reward."  And she was right.  The race was me proving to myself that I could do this and do it well.  And let's be honest- the medal I got at the end wasn't too shabby of a reward, either.

There you go, readers.  Just a few valuable tips that I've picked up over the last few years.  If you're about to run your first race or your 500th, just remember that they are all learning experiences.  Whether you want to beat your time in the next race or you figure something out mid-race that helps you in the future.  Honestly, the best advice I can give you is to stretch, take a deep breath, step up to that start line, and just let go.  (Feel free to wear any and all race shirts/medals/whatever for the next several days in a row.  Including to bed.  You've earned them.)

Side note- major MAJOR props to a friend of mine from high school who just completed not only the Dopey Challenge, but then went out to California the following weekend to do the Star Wars Rebel Challenge.  And he did it all to benefit the Special Operators Warrior Foundation.  Hoo-ah, John.  Proud to say I know you.

I'll see you guys on the other side of my 15K!  Till then, run on...

Dawn Garland is a native of Tampa, Florida. She reads, she writes, she knits and does not believe that any other college football conference can ever live up to the SEC. Dawn works at the University of Georgia as an analyst/consultant and her biggest accomplishment in life so far is the walking, talking, sports almanac that is her eight year old son.